Updates on cases, laws, and other topics of interest to local governments

Subscribe by Email

Enter your Email:
Preview | Powered by FeedBlitz

Subscribe in a Reader

Follow Municipal Minute on Twitter


Blog comments do not reflect the views or opinions of the Author or Ancel Glink. Some of the content may be considered attorney advertising material under the applicable rules of certain states. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Please read our full disclaimer

Thursday, July 26, 2012

City Ban on Fortune-Telling "Not in the Cards"

A Louisiana court recently ruled that a local ordinance banning fortune-telling, palm reading, astrology, and similar uses was unconstitutional, since such activities were free speech protected by the First Amendment.  Adams v. City of Alexandria, No. 11-1484, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 97059 (W.D. La. July 11, 2012).

The plaintiff, a psychic, had filed a lawsuit against the city claiming that the local ordinance ordinance was arbitrary, capricious, overly broad, vague, and unconstitutional.  The court agreed with the psychic, finding that the ordinance did not pass strict scrutiny review.  First, the court held that the city's stated purpose for the ordinance (to prevent fraud and misleading the public) was not supported by the facts of the case.  Second, the court determined that the city had alternative means of addressing these issues through enforcement of other laws, including theft and unfair trade practices. 

The magistrate judge who made the initial recommendation to the district court had some fun with its ruling, including the following quote directly from the case:

Based on its own clairvoyance, the City has decreed in brief that it is impossible to predict the future, and contends the business of fortune-telling is a fraud and is inherently deceptive. Ignoring the possibility that, for many people, engaging a fortune-teller could be just for fun—a novelty and a form of entertainment like casino gambling or trying to throw the softball through the rings to win the big bear on the top shelf at the fair—the City argues that prohibiting fortune-telling is necessary in order to prevent fraud and misleading the public....The City ordinance...is not the least restrictive means of protecting against the nefarious behavior of fortune tellers that the City ‘foresees'....Based on the foregoing analysis, it appears that a decision in favor of the City is not in the cards

Thanks to the International Municipal Lawyers Association for reporting on this case in the July 25, 2012 edition of the IMLA Newsletter.


Post a Comment